For the ninth consecutive year, Daytona International Speedway is honored to welcome Congressional Medal of Honor recipients to the Coke Zero Sugar 400 weekend festivities.
The program actually began in 1969, when Bill France Sr. invited all surviving Medal of Honor recipients to attend the 1969 race, dubbing it the Medal of Honor Firecracker 400. A total of 100 members from 31 states attended the race with Thomas J. Kelly, the president of the Medal of Honor Society, serving as the grand marshal with the heroes flown in via military aircraft.
That proud tradition continues this year with three Congressional Medal of Honor recipients set to honored as Daytona International Speedway and race fans everywhere will pay tribute to these brave heroes that have “distinguished himself or herself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his or her life above and beyond the call of duty.”
Staff Sergeant Don Jenkins (Vietnam)
Place / Date: Kien Phong Province, Republic of Vietnam, 6 January 1969
Date of Issue: 03/02/1971
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. S/Sgt. Jenkins (then Pfc.), Company A, distinguished himself while serving as a machine gunner on a reconnaissance mission. When his company came under heavy crossfire from an enemy complex, S/Sgt. Jenkins unhesitatingly maneuvered forward to a perilously exposed position and began placing suppressive fire on the enemy. When his own machine gun jammed, he immediately obtained a rifle and continued to fire into the enemy bunkers until his machine gun was made operative by his assistant. He exposed himself to extremely heavy fire when he repeatedly both ran and crawled across open terrain to obtain resupplies of ammunition until he had exhausted all that was available for his machine gun. Displaying tremendous presence of mind, he then armed himself with 2 antitank weapons and, by himself, maneuvered through the hostile fusillade to within 20 meters of an enemy bunker to destroy that position. After moving back to the friendly defensive perimeter long enough to secure yet another weapon, a grenade launcher, S/Sgt. Jenkins moved forward to a position providing no protection and resumed placing accurate fire on the enemy until his ammunition was again exhausted. During this time he was seriously wounded by shrapnel. Undaunted and displaying great courage, he moved forward 100 meters to aid a friendly element that was pinned down only a few meters from the enemy. This he did with complete disregard for his own wound and despite having been advised that several previous rescue attempts had failed at the cost of the life of 1 and the wounding of others. Ignoring the continuing intense fire and his painful wounds, and hindered by darkness, he made 3 trips to the beleaguered unit, each time pulling a wounded comrade back to safety. S/Sgt. Jenkins' extraordinary valor, dedication, and indomitable spirit inspired his fellow soldiers to repulse the determined enemy attack and ultimately to defeat the larger force. S/Sgt. Jenkins risk of his life reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the U.S. Army.
Be there July 7 to welcome Staff Sergeant Jenkins and our other distinguished Medal of Honor heroes to the World Center of Racing for an Independence Day weekend celebration unlike any other, including an autograph session inside UNOH Fanzone at 3:45p.m. Get your UNOH Fanzone/pre-race access today!
Have a note for Staff Sergeant Jenkins? Leave a comment below!
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